“I’m going to get my ferret, paint stripes down its side and make a fortune,” says Gordon, with a degree of confidence that seems in distinct contrast to the facts. He has been reading about the toyger, a small domestic cat that’s bred to look vaguely like a tiger, and it’s given him a plan for his own pet, Freddy the ferret.
“This woman found a tabby cat, spent 15 years cross-breeding it, and now they reckon they’re going to sell them for £500,” he explains.
Apparently, even when they’re not painted to look like big cats, ferrets make lovely pets. “More people should have ferrets,” says Gordon. “They do smell a bit, but they like a bath.”
Sinead seems unconvinced by this last ferret fact. “Can they swim?” she asks. Worryingly, Gordon doesn’t seem to know.
While we wonder whether Freddy is in safe hands, Sinead turns the talk to another unusual pet, her mum’s leonberger, which apparently is a type of enormous dog. “She bought it for my brother and said she was never going to have it in the house, but now she treats it like a child. It’s the size of two labradors.”
“What, stood on top of each other?” asks Ceri. Apparently not, it turns out, but still some way ahead of Freddy the painted ferret in the league of scary pets.
From the laws of the animal kingdom, it is not a huge leap to the dog-eats-dog world of high politics, and so it is that conversation turns to the day’s other big news story – the ousting of Ming. Ceri reckons the age of the grand old statesman may be gone. “Younger people don’t listen unquestioningly just because someone’s older. If some old fart is just rambling on, they don’t really see how he’s connected with them.”
So if politicians are past it at 66, who should we have leading the country? The idea of a joint administration run by Ant and Dec is mooted, with the “rest of the cast of Byker Grove in the Cabinet”, but the age-old problem of telling the pint-sized TV presenters apart is seen as a drawback. “Someone like Carol Vorderman?” suggests Ceri, before immediately realising the true horror of what she’s saying.
It’s also unclear how the job would fit in with Vorderman’s Countdown commitments.
Gordon points out that unlike politics (but in common with Countdown), construction is a haven for the older person. “In the eighties, it was all about young go-getters. There’s a lot more demand for people who know what they’re doing now. But I’ve got to say that because I’m 51 tomorrow …”
Ming, if you’re reading this, get down to your local site – there’s hope for you yet.
Chosen watering hole: Polka, in Poland Street, Soho
Ambience: Disappointing for anyone expecting a Polish theme pub. Otherwise, quite nice
Topics: Lib Dems and ferrets
Drinks drunk: 3 vodka-and-tonics, 1 white wine, 2 red wines, 3 bottles of lager, 2 Polka cocktails
Gordon Wakeling operations director
Sinead O’Halloran business development co-ordinator
Ceri Hayzer communications director
Nick Jones Building magazine
Freddy the ferret was unable to attend. He appears courtesy of Adobe Photoshop